Bringing Russian Art to Life
Gelula, Maryann, Williams, Kelly, School Arts
Faberge eggs are a beautiful symbol of Russian history and culture. When the Birch Wathen Lenox School decided to study Russia, the entire K-12 student body created elaborately jeweled Faberge eggs--some as large as three-feet tall that depicted three-dimensional scenes of New York City.
The Faberge egg project was part of a school-wide focus on Russia called the Year of Russia program. Students spent the year exploring the politics, economics, history, art, music, literature and culture of this complex country. Each year, every classroom focuses on a school-wide theme, which brings the entire school together to explore a specific area of study. The approach enriches each child's learning experience and allows the school to immerse students more deeply in a particular topic.
Russia Past and Present
Russia today is nothing like the elaborate jeweled culture of its past. Faberge eggs symbolize the height of Russian culture when the Czars still reigned. This project allows students to learn about Russian history through its art. The Faberge eggs, of which only fifty-six exist, epitomize the apex of jewelry art and were crafted by court jeweler Peter Carl Faberge (1846-1920)for the wives of Czars Alexander II (1855-1881) and Nicholas II (1895-1917).
The Faberge egg project was designed not only to teach about Russia's past and culture, but to teach students how to combine mixed media in creative ways and work collaboratively to complete a long-term project. Students worked with wood, plaster, plastic, cellu-clay, papier-mache, Styrofoam, acrylic paint, glitter, gem stones and costume jewelry to create the eggs.
Introducing Russian Arts
Students began by researching Faberge eggs. They went to the library to read about Russian history and found pictures of the eggs. Since the school is located in New York City, students were required to visit The Forbes Magazine Gallery on 12th Street, which exhibits a large collection of Faberge eggs. They were awed by the sight of the real jeweled eggs, and it helped them visualize their own designs.
After the research, students discussed what life was like in Russia during the time the Faberge eggs were created. They also studied the culture and meticulous craftsmanship that went into each egg. Students then spent a week working in teams to capture the enchanting quality of the eggs.
Teams in each grade worked to construct different Faberge eggs. Projects including egg-sized tree ornaments, one-foot tall eggs that opened to display jewels, two-foot tall eggs in nests, and three-foot tall eggs with three-dimensional dioramas of New York City scenes.
Small Faberge eggs were made out of clear plastic, wood, ceramic, and other materials. Clear plastic eggs seemed to be the best material because they allowed images inside the egg to be seen. Painting the inside of the eggs rather than the outside proved to be the best approach. Students used acrylic paint to design scenes for the inside of the eggs or layered several colors to create interesting patterns. Jewels, gems and beads were glued on the outside of the egg in geometric patterns. Some students left one side of the egg unpainted so that the inside scenes or designs could be seen through the clear plastic side. …